Skip to comments.Common Core
Posted on 01/01/2014 4:30:20 AM PST by Kaslin
My TV producers asked our Facebook audience to vote for a topic they'd most like to hear discussed on my year-end show. The overwhelming winner, for some reason: the education standards program Common Core.
Most Americans don't even know what that is. But they should. It's the government's plan to try to bring "the same standard" to every government-run school.
This may sound good. Often, states dumb down tests to try to "leave no child behind." How can government evaluate teachers and reward successful schools if there isn't a single national standard?
But when the federal government imposes a single teaching plan on 15,000 school districts across the country, that's even more central planning, and central planning rarely works. It brings stagnation.
Education is a discovery process like any other human endeavor. We might be wrong about both how to teach and what to teach, but we won't realize it unless we can experiment -- compare and contrast the results of different approaches. Having "one plan" makes it harder to experiment and figure out what works.
Some people are terrified to hear "education" and "experiment" in the same sentence. Why take a risk with something as important as my child's education? Pick the best education methods and teach everyone that way!
But we don't know what the best way to educate kids is.
As American education has become more centralized, the rest of our lives have become increasingly diverse and tailored to individual needs. Every minute, thousands of entrepreneurs struggle to improve their products. Quality increases, and costs often drop.
But centrally planned K-12 education doesn't improve. Per-student spending has tripled (governments now routinely spend $300,000 per classroom!), but test results are stagnant.
"Everyone who has children knows that they're all different, right? They learn differently," observed Sabrina Schaeffer of the Independent Women's Forum on my show. "In the workplace, we're allowing people flexibility to telecommute, to have shared jobs. In entertainment, people buy and watch what they want, when they want." Having one inflexible model for education "is so old-fashioned."
No Child Left Behind programs were an understandable reaction to atrocious literacy and graduation rates -- but since school funding was pegged to students' performance on federally approved tests, classroom instruction became largely about drilling for those tests and getting the right answers, even if kids did little to develop broader reasoning skills. So along comes Common Core to attempt to fix the problem -- and create new ones.
Common Core de-emphasizes correct answers by awarding kids points for reasoning, even when they don't quite get there.
A video went viral online that showed a worried mom, Karen Lamoreaux -- a member of the group Arkansas Against Common Core -- complaining to the Arkansas Board of Education about complicatedly worded math problems meant for fourth-graders. She read to the Board this question: "Mr. Yamato's class has 18 students. If the class counts around by a number and ends with 90, what number did they count by?"
But I could be wrong. Maybe this is a clever new way to teach math, and maybe Lamoreaux worries too much. Unfortunately, though, if Lamoreaux is right, and the federal government is wrong, government still gets to decree its universal solution to this problem.
Promoters of Common Core say, "Don't worry, Common Core is voluntary." This is technically true, but states that reject it lose big federal money. That's Big Government's version of "voluntary."
Common Core, like public school, public housing, the U.S. Postal Service, the Transportation Security Administration, etc., are all one-size-fits-all government monopolies. For consumers, this is not a good thing.
With the future riding on young people consuming better forms of education, I'd rather leave parents and children (and educators) multiple choices.
Despite Common Core, Schaeffer pointed out that this year did bring some victories for educational freedom. "We saw new education tax credit programs and expansion of tax credit programs in numerous states -- Alabama, Indiana, Iowa and others. Education Savings Accounts expanded in other states; voucher programs expanded."
This is good news. Vouchers, Education Savings Accounts and tax credits create competition and choice.
When you go back to the 1700s and 1800s and examine the ‘great minds’ of the era....you come to this odd group of items in the education process.
Most of these great minds...had private tutors for the ages of six to twelve, and were fully educated by today’s standards by age thirteen.
Greek philosophy and Roman history figures into their work demanded by the tutors.
Engineering skills were demanded in most all university programs of the 1700s and 1800s. Go look at degree requirements and class offerings. Most young men took a class related to engineering talents of the day.
Somewhere in the early 1900s....we set up Wal-mart-like schools and simply ran kids through some simplified process to say by age eighteen they were ‘certified’. A kid from 1876....probably was smarter, than kid today...which is sad to admit in public, if you take away all the IT-stuff.
But the best way to get it is not by division or multiplication - but by counting out on your fingers. It's a conceptual question not a math one.
But wholly inappropriate for fourth graders.
-— Somewhere in the early 1900s....we set up Wal-mart-like schools and simply ran kids through some simplified process to say by age eighteen they were certified.-—
Great diagnosis. You’re referring to Carnegie Units, which you’ve probably heard of. Carnegie’s foundation decided that learning should be measured by time-in-seat.
The idea is so insane that it hardly requires refutation, yet the idea is universally accepted. The most astonishing aspect of this is that private schools adopted the same model.
Imagine how motivated students would be to actually learn something if they could MOVE ON once they mastered a subject.
Each student could move through subjects at their own pace. The mechanism would be computerized, modularized, interactive lessons. I took a class like this in college and loved it. There was no test-stress, but you couldn’t move on until you passed. I learned the subject matter better than in any other class.
In such a system, teachers would act as tutors and advisors.
So how did our current system come about? Schooling is about societal control, not education. It has been since its inception. Schools are the single most nefarious institution in modern society.
Check out John Taylor Gatto’s “Underground History of American History.” It’s eye-opening, to say the least.
Make that, “Underground History of American Education.” He has made it available for everyone to read on-line for free. I think he’s a saint.
But wholly inappropriate for fourth graders.
Or even college graduates, but thanks for the answer and the way to get there, kind of fun using my fingers for something beyond typing.
Elliot Galloway (may his memory be green) believed in exactly that style of schooling. He was the principal of a small private Episcopal elementary school in Atlanta. He went on to found his own, eponymous school. Once he retired it morphed into a conventional K-6 prep school.
He could educate ANYBODY. He took on a lot of the kids that failed out of the conventional system and got them interested in learning. He was a Navy Commander in WWII and bold as a lion, but very gentle. His being disappointed in you was worse than anybody yelling at you - I still feel bad for having disappointed him on more than one (lots more than one) occasion.
But that's what REAL education requires - a committed and talented teacher. They are in short supply.
My husband is a Ga Tech graduate and one of those lucky souls who can "see" numbers and their relationships in his head - there's a real instinctive component to his math. I can only watch in awe, I have no idea how he gets from the problem to the answer.
So I just let him handle numbers, I do the language, history, and writing. Good division of labor, between us we make one well educated person.
Another is 10 if the first student counted is -80 or -10 if the first student is counted as 260 (using only simple arithmetic sequences not geometric series or anything fancy). Bright students may realize the possibility of multiple answers and become confused..
This is some "mathematics education specialist's" (read: not good enough for professional work) idea of a good question but fourth-graders are better off being taught how to add, subtract, multiply and divide!
I tutor many kids nowadays that have always used calculators and so don't really understand what the button is doing other than providing a "reliable" answer.
Teach the basics, greater concepts will teach themselves.
As Tom Lehrer famously said, “what matters is not that you get the right answer . . . “. Any kid thinking on that level in a fourth-grade public school classroom needs to be OUT of there before he is completely crushed.
I think allowing calculators in the lower grades was a dreadful mistake.
Math is the native language of the universe. When you understand the problem the math writes itself.
Thanks! The author of the book I linked followed the same approach, and became the NY State Teacher of the Year. Filing away for future reference ;-)
Can I email you when my 1st grade granddaughter needs help with her math??
Often, usually even, there are students that have a greater intellectual capacity than the teacher (not the cream of the crop, you know) and these students are often disliked by the teacher. This animosity harms the student.
I don't work at that level but I have noticed that it is usually a matter of just deciphering the curriculum into something intelligible for the parent.
Force the school to provide adequate instruction to ensure that your child is successful.
The best thing that you can do is to drill your granddaughter on the basics (flash cards still work and the internet has games Cool Math Games) that help.
Thank you so much! I’ll let my daughter know. The old fashioned three R’s & cursive I can handle. Common core is beyond me.
Thanks again & hope your New Year is a good one.
fourth-graders are better off being taught how to add, subtract, multiply and divide!
The simplicity of the statement just screams TRUE.
Big cities are the worst in educating children. Memphis, TN has the worst schools in the state grads that are A/B Math students, have to take REMEDIAL math to do a Jr. College Electronic and Computer course. Hubby taught this for 20 years! First the remedial math, then his electronic and computer classes.
TN Student Speaks Out About Common Core
Exposing Common Core
What is the Problem with Common Core?
Stopping Common Core National Standards and Tests
This one is what our own state purposes to install.
TN Common Core
Many thanks for this link! It looks fascinating. I am a teacher & look forward to checking it out.
You know I used to scorn John Stossel w/out truly knowing what he stood for. Wrong on my part! I watched his show & I am hooked. He makes SO much sense & like how great he is w/ all of his guests. He is very respectful even w/ people he vehemently disagrees with.
If you google his name, John Taylor Gatto, you'll find a lot of lectures and speeches on YouTube, too.
He has a very discursive and meandering style that some may like, and others may find frustrating. I like it despite its limitations. I tend to pay better attention, because you never know what fact is coming next. It helps me to remember the facts better.
One of my daughter's classmates is a screaming math genius - unbelievably talented. He burned through all the high school math courses while he was still in middle school.
Our school arranged for him to take higher math courses from the profs down at GA Tech. He was happy as a clam, and all the kids were very impressed at the lengths the school would go to to accommodate the exceptional student.
Of course, they charge enough for the privilege < roll eyes > But on the other hand, it didn't cost his parents any extra for him to hang around the North Avenue Trade School. Either the school made private arrangements, or the profs were happy to get an opportunity to recruit the kid for GT. I think he wound up going to MIT though. :-(
I back my way into math through music - once you really get into composition and analysis (especially of medieval polyphony, or Bach) you find yourself doing math. Hence the close connection in more enlightened times between math and music (e.g. The Music of the Spheres, John Dunstable (the greatest English composer before William Byrd, also an astronomer and mathematician) and the Quadrivium).
Music sounds better though, plus I like and understand it, so it's all good.
I spent the afternoon in the company of a Juilliard graduate who explained to me the mathematical basis of music. It was beautiful, and I think I understood it for about a day...
He actually explained math in music so it sticks pretty well (for a non-maths person). I don't know how he stands all us amateurs in the choir, but he does.
“...fourth-graders are better off being taught how to add, subtract, multiply and divide!”
I’m sorry, but if they can’t add, subtract, multiply and divide well before the 4th grade they are perilously behind for studying a STEM field as an adult.
My son is in 4th grade. I bought the 6th Grade Saxon (7/6) Math Book and after schooled him while in 3rd grade. He caught on quickly and now takes 7th grade math in a public school. It was a hard sell at the school but they let him take the advanced math class with the 6th graders and he’s doing great.
You are correct and, yes, many are that far behind.
The greatest weakness is often in areas involving fractions, word problems or multi-step problems.
Passing the standardized test is not the same as learning to use math to solve problems.